Perhaps it's just me, but I've noted a trend of answering which seems to devolve into a popularity contest when it comes to voting: new answers which present the same information already posted by another user are added (sometimes hours or days after the original post) and, consequently, the person who originally posted what is qualitatively the same information ends up with fewer votes.

Given that the timestamp is already truncated (which, unless one is willing to mouseover multiple similar answers to figure out who got it right first and who may have just re-posted in an attempt to gain rep) would it be possible to add an ordinal indicator adjacent to the truncated timestamp?

i.e. instead of "answered 6 hours ago" we could see "2nd answer (6 hours ago)"

1 Answer 1


As it were, many people actually complain about the opposite, that answers which got posted first tend to attract votes purely for speed despite having identical content. This is what inspired the change of vote-sort to be randomized for matching scores in the early life of a question.

But that's not the point of your inquiry, so let's address that. I don't think the relative time of the answer should really be relevant. Does it really matter if an answer was second, if it was good? Sometimes a later answer is better, sometimes it isn't - votes should be attributed based on that, not on whether it came first or second. When two posts are of identical content, then it largely devolves to voter preference - some vote on the timestamp, others by word count and presentation, and others based on popularity. Some people just realize they have a lot of votes per day and upvote all of the answers. We can't really control this aside from hinting, and what I'm concerned about is whether this hint is really a good one to employ.

Illustrating the relative times directly would give the impression that it has a consistent importance. I'm not exactly sure what we particularly gain from encouraging that kind of focus, especially considering that, as mentioned earlier, people have problems with a focus on "the first answer".

  • Another thorn, by the way, is the presence of deleted answers. The rank would either be confusing to sub-10k users if it took deleted answers into account, but would require updating (and also be a bother to 10k+ users) if it avoided deleted answers.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Dec 22, 2010 at 14:28
  • @Grace Note - I agree that my example placed undue emphasis upon the ordinal indicator; as for the deleted answers, it shouldn't be the toughest part of implementation to present both the "with deleted" and "without deleted" indicators side by side with color indicating which is which.
    – danlefree
    Dec 22, 2010 at 15:15

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